The Atlantic 10 Conference returns to Barclays Center following a two-year absence. The eyes of the country will be on Brooklyn to see if the league will produce an expect lone NCAA Tournament bid or if an upset will steal the automatic bid and shake up the bracket. Read on for the teams to know in the tournament, which tips off Wednesday.
VCU, which hasn’t lost since Jan. 23, is the runaway favorite. That wasn’t always the case. The Rams are likely headed to the NCAA Tournament after being picked seventh in the preseason coaches poll. They’re a virtual lock for the at-large field. That matters because any other tournament winner would make the A10 into a two-bid league.
Junior guard Marcus Evans leads the team with averages of 14.2 points and 3.3 assists. Forward Marcus Santos-Silva leads the Rams in rebounds with seven per game and holds the highest shooting percentage from the field at 59.9 percent. Evans’ constant motor and Santos-Silva’s high rate of success could make VCU the first No. 1 seed to win this tournament since Saint Louis in 2013.
No. 2 seed Davidson is led by Jon Axel Gudmundsson (17 ppg, 7.1 rpg), but the Wildcats can find fire behind the spark of Kellan Grady (16.9 ppg). Grady dropped 25 points in a win over Fordham last week, going 10-for-19 from the field and 3-for-5 from 3-point range. He followed with 23 against St. Bonaventure. The difference he made was evident in his absence. Grady missed four December contests, and the Wildcats lost three of them. Since his return, they’ve dropped only four of their last 18 — all in A10 play.
Davidson is the toughest challenge to a VCU romp. If Grady turns in a few performances like his closing week and Gudmundsson continues his consistent presence on both ends, the Wildcats will be off to the races.
Third-seeded Dayton lost its chance at playing onto the NCAA bubble but can’t be dismissed from the championship conversation. The Flyers, the league’s top-scoring team, lost just two games by a combined three points — to VCU and Rhode Island — since Feb. 5. The two games they dropped helped seal their postseason fate, but Obadiah Toppin, Josh Cunningham and Jalen Crutcher provide steady production.
No. 4 seed St. Bonaventure has won seven of its last eight games. Talent goes far in March, but never count out a hot team. Courtney Stockard leads the grinding Bonnies with 15.4 ppg.
Rhode Island, seeded eighth, struggled its way to a 9-9 record in conference play, but is one of two teams to hand VCU a conference loss. It’s also coming off back-to-back overtime wins against Dayton and St. Joseph’s last week. Jeff Dowtin, Cyril Langevine and Fatts Russell are virtually equal in point production. They could put together an unlikely run for first-year head coach David Cox.